War veterans are pushing the City of Red Deer to move the cenotaph to City Hall Park before downtown redesigns push forward, keeping it in its present place.
Doug McNeely, secretary-treasurer for the Korean Veterans Association, said the Red Deer group of 34 members has appealed to Mayor Morris Flewwelling to consider relocating the cenotaph from the centre of Ross Street where it was erected in 1922. They sent two letters, explaining the merits of having the soldier figure in the bigger park.
He said people would find it easier and safer to visit the cenotaph, including reading the plaques in memory of those who served in the First and Second World Wars, and the Korean War.
“We don’t want the relocation so we can line up at the cenotaph,” said McNeely, 78.
“Us guys are too old to stand out there in the cold. . .we want a place where people can pay their respects properly.”
The city is exploring the idea of making a Cenotaph Plaza as part of downtown revitalization plans. Two lanes of traffic on the north side of the cenotaph are currently shut down while a highrise is being built.
McNeely said traffic abuts the cenotaph on the south side.
Flewwelling has corresponded back to the veterans group, most recently in March. In one letter, he explains the cenotaph was installed there to welcome or to bid farewell to those soldiers leaving on the train. The former station is found on 51st Avenue west of the cenotaph.
“That’s not the reason for the cenotaph — it’s to honour the people who gave their lives for this country,” McNeely said.
He said he doesn’t know of any other Canadian community that has a cenotaph in the middle of a road.
Legion president Tim McCoy said the cenotaph could still face west if placed in City Hall Park.
“We could have parades to the cenotaph. To have a parade now to the cenotaph, we have to shut down all the roads down and the (city) would charge us dearly.”
Flewwelling was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Larry Pimm said the city’s desire is to build a pocket park just north of the cenotaph, once the Executive Place building is constructed.
“What we have found is the reduced flow of traffic really hasn’t been a great inconvenience,” Pimm said.
“It’s tended to slow down the traffic a little bit. A pocket park would be a very attractive feature.”
Pimm said he’s not aware of any city plans to gather formal input from the veterans.
“If they’re anxious to have formal debate on it, that can happen,” he said. “But there hasn’t been a huge hue and cry in the public at large to move the cenotaph.”
City archivist Michael Dawe said a citywide plebiscite was held in 1953, with voters electing to keep it where it was.
And there may be troubles to move it, Dawe said.
Charlie MacLean, whose father installed the cenotaph, told the city several years ago that it probably would sustain damage if moved.
A special memorial committee raised money to have the cenotaph erected and later entrusted the cenotaph into the care of the city. The committee later disbanded.